In the city of Copperas Cove, Texas, USA, the local authority decided under a parks improvement plan to remove more than 70 shelters erected by local residents to protect stray cats in South Park. As is often found in urban environments in America, there is a body of volunteers who are sensitive towards the welfare of stray cats and they want to do something about it.
Sometimes they come into conflict with the authorities. This is one of those occasions. It is said that the cats are not necessarily feral. They can be petted and are therefore stray domestic cats. In fact four of them were re-homed by a local shelter.
In addition, the cat shelters were taken down in the middle of winter.
“The way they did that is just animal cruelty in my book, right in the middle of the cold winter,” said Ed Oaks a resident in the neighbourhood that surrounds the walking trail. He is part of the collaborative effort of residents dedicated to the welfare of the cat in the park.
Wanda Moore, one of the volunteers, said that without feeding the cats, they will move to other areas where they will be picked up by Animal Control and then what? She also said:
“Right now, they’re staying in the park…They’re not bothering anybody. The city’s not having any expense at this point,”
The entire effort including expenses looking after these cats is taken on by volunteers. The city has no burden financial or otherwise with respect to the cats. However, they perceive health issues relating to their presence. According to a press release the cats created “an unhealthy/hazardous health environment and are not visually appealing”.
The counterargument is that many people like their presence. One of those people is a nine-year-old boy who has autism. He is the son of Ann Branaugh-Phipps.
“Many of the cats (whom he has named) know him and surround him as he gives them treats…He has even given one a collar with an engraved tag that reads, ‘Love, Robert'”.
Oaks said that there were 36 cats but the volunteers recently conducted a TNR program which reduced the numbers to less than 30. Often the cats are already spayed or neutered which lead to the conclusion that they are stray domestic cats. He believes that they are dumped domestic cats who need a home.
Oaks has gone out and created some makeshift shelters using sticks and leaves to protect them.
The grounds under which the authorities have removed the cat shelters is that the public are not allowed to leave personal property in a park.
The question that remains is whether the authorities have managed this issue in the correct manner. Perhaps they could have managed it in a way which was less cruel to the cats. In fact, you wonder whether the local authority are open to claims of animal cruelty because through their actions they are exposing the cats to the winter elements causing suffering. Actions which cause suffering in animals are usually in violation of animal welfare laws.
Source: Copperas Cove Leader Press online.